UPS and Wingcopter team up to develop versatile new delivery-drone fleet

Many see the future of parcel delivery via drones, and so does the US logistic company UPS. The subsidiary UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) drone delivery service has announced a new partnership with German drone manufacturer Wingcopter to develop the next generation of package delivery drones for a wide variety of uses in the United States and internationally.

The US parcel giant explains that it chose the Darmstadt-based transport drone pioneer Wingcopter because of its technology in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles and its track record in delivering a wide variety of goods, also over long distances and in multiple international contexts.

Drone delivery is not a one-size-fits-all operation,” said Bala Ganesh, vice president of the UPS Advanced Technology Group. “Our collaboration with Wingcopter helps pave the way for us to start a drone delivery service in new use-cases. UPS Flight Forward is building a network of technology partners to broaden our unique capability to serve customers and extend our leadership in drone delivery.

The drones should cover various fields of application, beyond the health sector.
The drones should cover various fields of application, beyond the health sector.

This is “an important step towards building a broad fleet of drones that can cover even more potential customer needs with diverse capabilities,” the UPS press release said. UPS and Wingcopter will first have to obtain their flight certification so that their drones can be authorized to make deliveries to the USA.

Wingcopter drones are able to take off and land vertically in a confined space, and to transition to an efficient horizontal high-speed flight. The previous Wingcopter drone (Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift) achieved a high speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) and a maximum range of 120 km (75 miles) with its tilt rotor. The patented tilt-rotor mechanism, which enables a seamless transition between two drone modes: multicopter for hovering and fixed-wing for low-noise forward flight. The aerodynamic Wingcopter aircrafts operate with unmet stability even in harsh weather conditions.

These capabilities will enable UPSFF to begin developing solutions that, according to the logistician, go far beyond healthcare and retail. The hope is to solve “long-standing challenges for customers in the fields of high-tech, industrial production, hospitality, entertainment, and other industries.”

Besides the fact that its program was the first to be certified, UPS Flight Forward is planning several projects logically linked to the use of drones. Alongside Matternet, it contributes, for example, to the delivery of medical samples to the United States.

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